Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: We have six living former governors. How are they doing?

  Gov. John Patterson is our oldest living chief executive. Patterson is 99 years old and living on his ancestral family farm in rural Tallapoosa County in an obscure area named Goldville. Patterson is a legend in Alabama politics. He was governor from 1958-1962. He has the distinction of being the only person to beat George Wallace in a governor’s race in the Heart of Dixie. When he was elected in 1958, he was 37-years-old and was dubbed the “Boy Governor”. Patterson was Attorney General of Alabama for a term prior to being governor and served several decades on the Court of Criminal Appeals after his governorship.

  Patterson spends his time on his farm reading and tending to his animals. In fact, visitors to his home will find he has a pet goat named Rebecca. She sits and listens intently to your conversation and her head will move and look at those talking as though she is part of the conversation. Governor Patterson is totally on top of his game and has attended numerous weddings and funerals in the past year. He recognizes and converses with friends and relatives.

  Forrest “Fob” James served two terms as governor, although not concurrently. He was first elected in 1978 as a Democrat, serving 1979-1982, and secondly in 1994 as a Republican, serving from 1995-1998. He is the only person in state history to be elected governor as a Democrat and a Republican. James is 85 and doing well. He lives primarily in Miami, Florida and spends his days walking and caring for his wife Bobbie.

  Robert Bentley was one of the most successful and respected dermatologists in the state prior to entering politics. Bentley served two terms in the Alabama House of Representatives prior to being elected governor twice. He was first elected governor in 2010 and reelected, overwhelmingly, in 2014. He served over six years as governor and did a good job. He is 77-years-old and in good health. He has resumed his medical/dermatology practice in Tuscaloosa.

  Bob Riley served two successful terms as governor. He was elected in 2002 and reelected in 2006. He is only 75-years-old. Riley was raised in Clay County and now lives in Birmingham with his lovely wife Patsy. He has several lucrative lobbying contracts.

  If anyone was ever born to be governor, it was Don Siegelman. He was born and raised in Mobile. He went on to the University of Alabama where he was SGA President and then went on to graduate from Georgetown Law School. He served in Alabama politics for 26 years. He was elected Alabama Secretary of State, Attorney General of Alabama, and Alabama Lieutenant Governor prior to his election as governor in 1998. He served one term as governor. Siegelman is the last member of the Democratic Party as well as the only Roman Catholic to serve as governor of Alabama.

  Siegelman is doing well at 74. I enjoy visiting with him over lunch. He enjoys time with his wife Lori and his two grown children, Joseph and Dana, and his dog Kona. He has a book out entitled, "Stealing Our Democracy", which is doing well in sales.

  Speaking of being born to be governor, Jim Folsom, Jr. was literally born in the Governor’s Mansion in May 1949, while his daddy, James “Big Jim” Folsom, was governor his first term, 1946-1950. Jim Folsom, Jr. had an illustrious career in Alabama politics. He was elected and served several times as a member of the Public Service Commission and three terms as Alabama Lieutenant Governor prior to becoming governor in 1993. He did an excellent job as governor and is credited with bringing Mercedes to Alabama.

  "Little Jim" was a brilliant politician, naturally as the son of "Big Jim" Folsom. However, most folks say his beautiful wife, Marsha Guthrie, is the better politician of the two. Both are doing well and live in their hometown of Cullman. Their son and daughter are grown and are also doing well.

  About the author: Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at He can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

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